Myths about COPD

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

Myth #1 – COPD is a death sentence

In a word, (okay, three words) not even close!

I remember my shock and dismay when I was diagnosed with Severe (Stage 3) Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). I knew that my breathing had not been good for the past few years, that my breathing capacity had slowly diminished. I had been plagued with respiratory infections, but my career as an accountant had not required much in the way of physical exertion, so I had been getting by just fine, thank you very much! I had smoked for 20 years and I had grown up in the home of a heavy smoker, but I had quit 20 years ago, so my lungs should have healed somewhat, right?

Wrong. Sorry, but emphysema, which turned out to be my chief complaint, is not reversible. It is chronic, meaning it does not go away, and it is progressive over time. But, and this is an important but, it is nowhere near a death sentence! “Am I going to die?” “How long do I have to live?” The answers are “Yes,” and “No way to tell.” You will die someday, but chances are that you will die with lung disease, rather than from it. As we will discuss in a minute, you actually have some choice as to your life span.

Myth #2 – People with COPD should not exercise

Nice try… Yes, exercise may be more difficult than it used to be, but that is no excuse to head for the couch and the remote. A regular exercise routine will do more for your health, your longevity, your attitude, and your quality of life than anything else. Keeping the rest of your body strong will help to make up for your weakened lungs and allow you to keep doing the things that you enjoy. It is possible to exercise, exercise hard, with very little lung function left.  It can be done, and it is so very worth it! Trust me.

Myth #3 – There is no effective treatment for COPD

Not true at all. Medications, a decent diet, supplemental oxygen to keep the saturation of the blood above 90%, and the exercise of which we spoke above will all serve to control symptoms and prevent flareups. Research is continuing on treatments for lung disease, and there have been a lot of new medications developed that have relieved many of the symptoms, but we do still have a long way to go for a cure.

Myth #4 – COPD is a disease of old age

It’s true that most people are diagnosed with COPD in their 50s or 60s, but people who have a genetic form of COPD caused by Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency can get the disease much earlier in life, often in their late 30s. It is a hereditary disease, but it can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Once diagnosed, special treatments are available

Myth #5 – COPD is a man’s disease

The year 2000 was the first year that more women than men died from the disease. This trend is likely to continue and rise, as many of the women that began smoking at the dawn of the feminist movement are now aging into the COPD realm. Equality, sadly, has exacted a price.

~ Uncle Jim

Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.

If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, learn more about CAIRE wearableportable and stationary oxygen concentrators by visiting or calling 1-877-704-0878 to talk to an oxygen advisor. 

When using any oxygen therapy device please consult the applicable product instructions for use for product indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and detailed safety information.

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